Renaissance and Reformation
Around 1500, northern European knowledge of the human being expanded considerably—not only thanks to the discovery and conquest of the New World but also thanks to a reflection on the old world of antiquity. An intellectual current that would later be called humanism spread from Italy. This movement was associated with a stronger interest in reality and nature in which the human being was increasingly the focus.
Scholars, like the preacher Hermann Huddaeus depicted here, influenced the understanding of the world in the age of the Reformation and shaped the process of reordering the church and society.
New pictorial themes such as landscape and portraits of members of bourgeois society testify to the altered perception of the world and to the intense observation of nature and the human being. Within these realistic depictions, however, there are symbols that point beyond what is visible in the image.
Whether a crown was composed of horn or made of gold, exotic natural objects were collected and preserved alongside artful artifacts in the new cabinets of art and curiosities.
The era of humanism was the hour of birth of these "Wunderkammern" (cabinets of wonder): princely collections that are in a sense the precursors to our museums today.
One famous collector of the period around 1500 was Frederick the Wise, whose abundance of extraordinary objects can still be admired today in the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) in Dresden. One typical example of Frederick’s passion for collecting and enthusiasm for precious materials and exotic natural objects is this “turban snail goblet.”
Large battles and other events of classical antiquity were a popular pictorial subject north of the Alps as well. The depiction of the past commented on current political events. Melchior Feselen’s painting, for example, which shows Caesar’s victory over the Gauls by the conquest of the city of Alesia in 52 BCE, is full of references that link the historical event to contemporaneous events.
Online Curation: Nadine Söll, Jutta Dette
Text / Editing: Jutta Dette, Astrid Alexander
Based on: Renaissance and Reformation - German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach, Nov 20, 2016–March 26, 2017, A Cooperation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München, Catalogue of the Exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Munich: Prestel, 2016.
© This exhibition was made possible by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München, and made possible by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany. Additional support is provided by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.